– Koon Yew Yin
The Malaysian Insider
14 September 2015
As we Malaysians celebrate our National Day on September 16, 2015, there is much we can be thankful for.
Sure, there is also much to be gloomy about. But let me as a senior citizen Malaysian try to put it into some perspective for the younger generation.
Firstly, we have endured as an independent nation for more than five decades.
At the time of Merdeka in 1957, there were many pessimists who felt that we could not progress without the British; and that the country would break apart quite quickly.
In fact, I remember those days very well as I was just starting on my own career journey as a young engineer.
Some of my colleagues were British professionals working for the colonial government.
Many doubted for example that our economy could survive without the Brits to guide it.
Thus when these officials were given the option of taking their pension in either ringgit or in British pounds, they almost unanimously decided to opt for the latter such was their lack of confidence in our currency.
At that time the ringgit was trading at about RM7.60 to £1. Since then even though our currency has had its ups and downs, the ringgit has not lost value against the British pound.
I am sure all the British ex-colonial civil servants must be kicking themselves for giving up so easily on Malaya.
Not only did our ringgit do well but we built a robust and diversified economy.
That strong and diversified economy was a result almost entirely of private enterprise. Government had nothing to do with it except be the pay masters.
I need to emphasise this as the government has made repeated attempts at trying to replace private sector growth with state led growth.
In the process, the government has ended up sabotaging economic growth and killing the private sector geese which have laid the golden eggs for the nation.
And similar attempts are taking place now with GLCs pushing to take over a larger chunk of Chinese owned businesses.
I am proud to be among the early pioneers in our private sector construction industry which made a major contribution to our economic growth.
Besides drainage and irrigation (the Muda Irrigation scheme was one of my early projects) the companies that I started such as Mudajaya, Gamuda and IJM – helped to build highways and housing estates.
These companies became giants in the building and construction sector.
All this was done in cost effective and at the same time durable ways. To give an example, a house built by my partners and I in the 60s and 70s would cost RM10 to RM100,000.
All of them are still around and have increased in value 20 fold. This brought affordable housing within reach to all the middle class and even lower class.
Imagine how quickly a graduate at that time could get his own house since he was earning RM600 monthly. Compare that with the situation today and you can understand why so many want to go back to the good old days.
We have been lucky too as we had what can be considered not one lottery win but one which has continued for over 30 years.
By this I mean our enormous oil and gas revenues. Unfortunately much of these revenues have been wasted on massive projects of dubious value such as the national car and national carrier as well as leaked out to cronies, rentiers, con-sultants and other parasitic members of the elite.
By right we should be a First World country by now but no thanks to the corruption and wastage especially having to do with the New Economic Policy, we have remained a part of the Third World.
Although the government has mismanaged the country’s resources and funds, the sheer size of private sector contribution and oil contribution to government revenues has enabled Malaysians to enjoy some benefits.
We also need to acknowledge that the government has done some things well. Take for example our medical system which is something we take for granted but which is quite cheap, affordable, accessible and a model for many developing countries.
There are positives and negatives from being a Malaysian. But the positives far outweigh the negatives in my opinion.
This is why I have advised Malaysians to stay back in the country and fight for a better Malaysia.
The older generations have already laid the basis for a good country. Now the younger generation must take up the fight.
And this fight begins with defending the multiracial and multicultural composition that makes us so unique in the world.
This is why all of us must celebrate September 16 – our national day – in the appropriate manner by closing ranks and rejoicing in the journey we have taken as a multi-racial nation.
We must expect that there will be a small minority of fellow Malaysians consumed by racial envy, jealousy and greed whose sense of the good old days goes back to the days of the Malacca sultanate before it was conquered by the Portuguese.
Well, those days are over and will never come back.
I and other Malaysians are happy that that some of the former Umno leaders such as Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz are finally speaking up and reminding the Malay community that this is no longer “Tanah Melayu” but “Tanah Malaysia”.
There are no longer pendatang of a lesser political or social status but Malaysians with equal rights.
Groups with extremist messages such as Pesaka and the ‘red shirt’ gang may want to make political capital out of rallying for Malay dignity and “maruah” but in fact they are being seen by most Malaysians as nothing but opportunistic agitators seeking to confuse the Malay community and working to destroy the future of all Malaysians, especially of the Malay youth. – September 14, 2015.